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What Happens

Asking people
What happens to them
          after they die
Is like asking babies in the womb
What happens to them
          After they’re born—
How can they answer
When they don’t even know
          how to speak yet,
When they don’t even know
Their mother tongue
          So they can understand
               the question
          to begin with
Or anything
About the outside world?

Ask a sperm cell
What happens to it
          after it fertilizes
          an ovum.
Ask the umbilical cord
What happens to it
          after it becomes
               a bellybutton.
Ask a baby in the womb
What religion it is
          or if its mother
in immortality.
Ask an unborn baby in its mother
Who is making love with its father
          what’s happening.
Ask an unborn baby
Entering the birth canal
          Just about to be born
               if there’s life after birth.

(originally appearing in Touch Each Other, 2015)

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Antler, former poet laureate of Milwaukee, is author of Factory (City Lights), Last Words (Ballantine), Selected Poems (Soft Skull Press), Subteranean Rivulet (Falling Tree Press), and Exclamation Points ad Infinitum! (Centennial Press). He lives along the Milwaukee River in Milwaukee.

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